Trump and the NFL Dispute

Morgan Browning

US NEWS

As many NFL players across the U.S. took a knee during the National Anthem for social and racial equality, people’s opinions have been widely spread on the issue. The whole protest began in 2016 when the 49er’s quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, took a knee for the way African American’s were being treated.

Our own president, Donald Trump, recently made a statement on the subject saying that anyone who takes part in this should be fired by NFL owners. He even called these men who “disrespect the flag” an explicit term. After this statement, three NFL teams were outraged and started even more protesting, including the Pittsburgh Steelers. They decided to stand inside the tunnel during the National Anthem. All but one player, Alejandro Villanueva, stayed hidden during the song. Villanueva used to be a captain and an Army Ranger, so he felt that he had to take part in the National Anthem of his country. However, the day after the game the Steeler’s quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, stated that he couldn’t sleep that night because he regretted his decision to stand inside.

That same day after the game, Villanueva’s jersey outsold the big names, such as Marshawn Lynch and Aaron Rodgers. This is also what occurred last year when Kaepernick started the protest. His merchandise became hot on the market and he even pledged to donate the money he made from the sales. NFL players make around two-thirds of the money made from jersey sales, so his donation made a great impact on the communities he gave back to.

With some people cheering for the players who are protesting and some shunning them all over the media, Trump did have a point when he made his statement. The U.S. Code, Title 36, Chapter 1, Section 301 states, “(C) all other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, and men not in uniform, if applicable, should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart.” Therefore, it is a public law that anyone in the presence of the National Anthem must stand for the National Anthem, if they are able. Trump may have approached his statement the wrong way, causing the NFL players to become angered, but the players have broken the law, protest or not.

Coach Mike Tomblin is the one who decided his team would stay hidden during the National Anthem to avoid politics. When Villanueva emerged from the tunnel, with his helmet in one hand and the other over his heart, it was said that Tomblin was not happy. However, this did not stop the veteran from being respectful to his country. Many people glorified Villanueva on social media for standing on his own, praising him for his respect and class.

Last year when the protests started, Villanueva told SB Nation, “I don’t know if the most effective way is to sit down during the national anthem with a country that’s providing you freedom, providing you $16 million a year…when there are black minorities that are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan for less than $20,000 a year.”

However, he agreed that something needed to be done about the problem. “I will be the first one to hold hands with Colin Kaepernick and do something about the way minorities are being treated in the United States, the injustice that is happening with police brutality, the justice system, inequalities in pay. You can’t do it by looking away from the people that are trying to protect our freedom and our country,” Villanueva told SB Nation.

With all of the different responses to the protesting, it is important to remember we are still a free country. People have the freedom to have their own opinions and beliefs. However, has the NFL taken this freedom too far?